Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Space Research May Accelerate Development Of Flu-Fighting Drug

Date:
March 12, 1999
Source:
Marshall Space Flight Center
Summary:
Even with vaccines, 20-40 million people in the United States catch the flu each year, and thousands are at risk of dying from its complications. In the future, a new class of prescription drugs called neuraminidase inhibitors offers the prospect for decreasing the duration and severity of the illness and may even prevent the development of symptoms in those exposed to the virus. One of these neuraminidase inhibitors was developed through ground and space research conducted in partnership by NASA and the Center for Macromolecular Crystallography at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Even with vaccines, 20-40 million people in the United States catch the flu each year, and thousands are at risk of dying from its complications.

In the future, a new class of prescription drugs called neuraminidase inhibitors offers the prospect for decreasing the duration and severity of the illness and may even prevent the development of symptoms in those exposed to the virus. One of these neuraminidase inhibitors was developed through ground and space research conducted in partnership by NASA and the Center for Macromolecular Crystallography at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The compound was synthesized by BioCryst Pharmaceuticals in Birmingham, Ala., and is now under development by The R.W. Johnson Pharmaceutical Research Institute in Raritan, N.J., a Johnson & Johnson company.

"With the aid of NASA support for space and ground-based research, we successfully mapped the molecular structure of the influenza virus -- exposing its weaknesses," said Dr. Larry DeLucas, director of the Center for Macromolecular Crystallography at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Sponsored by the Space Product Development Office of NASA's Microgravity Research Program at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., DeLucas' organization is chartered as a NASA Commercial Space Center -- encouraging private industry to benefit from space technology. Dr. Ming Luo, a professor of the Center for Macromolecular Crystallography, and an international team of crystallographers, developed the "molecular map" of the flu virus using space-grown protein crystals.

Influenza protein crystals flown aboard Space Shuttle mission STS-77 in May 1996 were used to confirm earlier studies and to determine the effectiveness of potential drugs on the flu virus protein.

"By analyzing space-grown crystals of the influenza virus, we were able to get a clearer picture of the virus' structure," said DeLucas. "NASA's support for this research project probably saved considerable time needed to develop this new drug."

Called "structure-based drug design," this research focuses on how molecules of a virus fit together. Researchers built diagrams of the flu's unique shape to design drugs that block the undesirable characteristics of the virus.

Neuraminidase inhibitors are designed to block an active site of influenzaneuraminidase, an enzyme associated with the spread of the flu. Unlike vaccines, which have to be taken before exposure and are only specific to certain strains of the influenza virus, neuraminidase inhibitors may be taken as either treatment or prevention, and are effective against a wide variety of influenza strains.

"It's like trying to build a tiny key that fits into a tiny lock," said DeLucas. "Except this lock is living, breathing, flexing, changing temperatures and in constant motion."

The R.W. Johnson Pharmaceutical Research Institute is responsible for all phases of testing the drug in humans. Before becoming available in the U.S., the drug must undergo this testing and be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Pure, precisely ordered protein crystals of large size and uniformity are in high demand by drug developers for efforts such as this flu research. When grown on the ground, protein crystals often cannot be grown as large or as well ordered as researchers desire, obscuring these vital pathways to a better understanding of disease. As the "frequent flyers" of the space program, protein crystal growth experiments are aboard nearly every Space Shuttle mission, helping researchers unlock the secrets of how to stop infection and disease on Earth.

Space research has provided important advances in the understandingof many diseases, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, respiratorysyncytial virus and hepatitis.

Note to Editors: Interviews are available with NASA, industry and university researchers by contacting Steve Roy of the Marshall Center Media Relations Office at (256) 544-6535. More information about NASA's Microgravity Research Program experiments can be found at: http://www.msfc.nasa.gov/news and http://microgravity.msfc.nasa.gov

Photos: Contact Steve Roy to receive the three available photos or download print-quality images from the web at: http://www1.msfc.nasa.gov/NEWSROOM/news/photos/1999/photos99-040.htm

#9901148 (Flu Diagram) Mapping a Disease Brings Hope for Relief from the Flu

Developed from flu crystals grown in space, a computer model shows where a new drug (in yellow and purple) may be attached to the flu virus to stop it from spreading.

#9901150 (Luo with model) Fighting the Flu with Help from Space

Because of the increased size and perfection of space-grown crystals of the flu virus, Dr. Ming Luo, associate director of the Center for Macromolecular Crystallography of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, has designed a molecular model of a new anti-flu drug.

#9901149 (Luo with crystals) Space Crystals May Help Fight the Flu

By X-raying flu virus crystals grown in space, Dr. Ming Luo, associate director of the Center for Macromolecular Crystallography located at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, is able to map the flu’s structure for drug developers.

- end -


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Marshall Space Flight Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Marshall Space Flight Center. "Space Research May Accelerate Development Of Flu-Fighting Drug." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 March 1999. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/03/990311125525.htm>.
Marshall Space Flight Center. (1999, March 12). Space Research May Accelerate Development Of Flu-Fighting Drug. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/03/990311125525.htm
Marshall Space Flight Center. "Space Research May Accelerate Development Of Flu-Fighting Drug." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/03/990311125525.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

AFP (July 24, 2014) A so-called drugs rehab 'clinic' is closed down in Pakistan after police find scores of ‘patients’ chained up alleging serial abuse. Duration 03:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Too Few Teens Receiving HPV Vaccination, CDC Says

Too Few Teens Receiving HPV Vaccination, CDC Says

Newsy (July 24, 2014) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is blaming doctors for the low number of children being vaccinated for HPV. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Newsy (July 24, 2014) Sheik Umar Khan has treated many of the people infected in the Ebola outbreak, and now he's become one of them. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins